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They called it “The Sound of Young America”, or “The Sound of Detroit”, but when Berry Gordy Jr, below, unleashed this incredible new sound in the early Sixties on his Tamla-Motown label, it was confusing to many of us who were busy trying to look like our Beat Boom musical heroes.

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Let’s face it, there was racism, and the only reason some of us at that time even pretended to appreciate the Blues and Blues legends like Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, below, Rufus Thomas, BB King, Bo Diddley, and, though he was Rock’n Roll, even Chuck Berry, was because bands like the Stones, the Animals, Manfred Mann, the Yardbirds, Alexis Korner, Pretty Things, Downliner Sect etc covered their songs and named them as their musical influences.

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Were they their musical influences? Really?

I’m unsure, as hipsters and musical elitism was starting to happen.

Many popular British bands at the time sang about Hootchie Cootchie Men and getting their mojos working, while so many others did the same despite not knowing a mojo from a burrito, and lost as to what the hell a King Bee was doing “buzzing around your hive”, or what “Walking The Dog” was about.

But it was cool and dammit, there was a need to blow harp, sing like Eric Burden, and be something we were not, but felt we needed to be.

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Frankly, it wasn’t until I watched the very underrated movie “Crossroads” with its amazing guitar duel between the devil played by Steve Vai and Ralph Macchio miming to Ry Cooder’s guitar work, did I understand Robert Johnson’s influence in music, and why so many were always “standing at the Crossroads”, or going “further on up and down the highway”.

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Motown was different. It was brilliantly crafted Pop tracks from a hit making factory of amazing, anonymous session musicians and in-house songwriting teams like The Corporation and, especially, the hugely prolific Holland-Dozier-Holland that made “black music” acceptable to a white audience and made me fall madly in lust with Diana Ross- skinny, wearing a bad wig, possessing huge teeth, but the sexiest woman in the world, and the lead singer with the Supremes whose every single was Pop music no one had ever heard before.

This was through the “simple complexity” of the recordings where, often, the tambourine and handclaps were pushed up high in the mix along with the snare whereas producer Norman Whitfield created some extraordinary string arrangements to add drama to the less poppy tracks.

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I was at a club on the weekend playing the current hits and suddenly on came the Supremes’ hit, “Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone”.

Listening to Diana Ross and the way she owned those early Supremes hits with her voice, and her “ughs” and “ooohs”, gave me a horn bigger than Tower Of Power.

It was pure sex dressed up as a Pop song and part of growing up and having a weakness for certain women.

It was forbidden fruit which tasted even sweeter with the Motown Sound of the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “Little” Stevie Wonder and the extraordinary Mr Marvin Gaye, below.

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Having started out as a session drummer, Berry Gordy had Marvin Gaye, a complex, troubled, eventually cocaine-addled man who had his many demons and was shot to death in 1984 by his oddball, cross-dressing alcoholic, bible thumping father, record what he wanted him to record- more Motown Pop and commercial, formulaic duets with Tammi Terrell and Kim Western.

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This was until the artist started writing his own material- classics that captured the changing mood of America like “What’s Going On”, “Brother Brother” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”- before ending up broke and a broken man through drug use and a voracious sexual appetite.

He was also a musical genius whose riffs, rhythms, grooves are more in vogue today than ever before- and which have been poached and recycled many times over.

Today, listen to Robin Thicke, even “Happy” by Pharrell, go back and hear the recordings of Amy Winehouse, and you can understand- and hear- the influence of those early Motown recordings and why there are also plagiarism suits flying around as all those riffs, so many of those Holland-Dozier-Holland songs, total rip-offs of nearly every great Marvin Gaye song- and the music of Sly Stone and Earth, Wind and Fire- is being cloned as perfection has no substitute, and the music world is practically void of new ideas.

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It’s sad to watch, but in the Must See documentary called “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown”, we see how The Funk Brothers that included the brilliant James Jamerson on bass guitar- those great session men behind classics like “My Girl”, “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” and all those early Supremes hits- were never ever given their dues for those riffs they created, their arrangements created in the Hitsville studio by jamming as tapes recorded all their takes, and were, in many ways, screwed outta millions in royalties plus not even mentioned in the credits.

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The ripping off of these hugely talented, hugely influential, iconic musicians continues today- even from their “brothers”, who have come from the ghetto, been influenced by all this music that once was “The Sound Of Young America” and will always be The Motown Sound, realised the power of working together, traded in the bling for sharp suits, gave themselves a total image makeover while reworking the business model, and are now the most powerful people in the entertainment industry with the music side of things only a means to an end.

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Hans Ebert
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc and Fast Track Global Ltd

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